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The excavations could not well have been made later than the sixth century, and it
seems hardly to admit of doubt that we have here petrifactions of the last forms of
Buddhist architecture, and of the first forms of that of the Dravidians. — Fergusson,
Hist. Ind. Arcti., 175, 329.


The principal group of bastis at present known above the Ghats is that
at Sravan Belgola. There are there two hills— the Indra-giri on whose
summit the colossal image just described stands and dominates the plain.
On a shoulder of the other, called Chandra-giri, stand the bastis, fifteen in
number. As might be expected from their situation, they are all of the
Dravidian style of architecture, and are consequently built in gradually
receding storeys, each of which is ornamented with small simulated cells.
.... Their external appearance is more ornamental than that of the
generality of northern Jaina temples. The outer wall of those in the north
is almost always quite plain. The southern ones are as generally
ornamented with pilasters, and crowned with a row of ornamental cells.
Inside is a court, probably square, and surrounded by cloisters, at the back
of which rises the vimuna over the cell which contains the principal image
of the Tirthankara. It always is surmounted by a small dome, as is
universally the case with every vimjlna in Dravidian architecture.

It may be a vain speculation, but it seems impossible not to be struck
with the resemblance to the temples of southern Babylonia. The same
division into storeys with their cells ; the backward position of the temple
itself ; the panelled or pilastered basement, arc all points of resemblance it
seems difficult to regard as purely accidental.^

Besides the greater temples, there are several varieties of smaller ones,
which seem peculiar to the style. Four-pillared pavilions are not uncommon
in front of Hindu temples in the south, but these Jain mantapas are five-
pillared^ [that is, with a pillar at each angle and one in the middle. There
is one before the entrance to the betta on .Sravan Belgola, the middle pillar
being so supported from above that a handkerchief can be passed through
below its base].

Though not the grandest, certainly the most elegant and graceful objects
belonging to the Jaina style of architecture are the stambhas which are found
attached to almost every temple. They are used sometimes by the Hindus,
but then generally as di'p-ddns or lamp-bearing pillars, and in that case
have some arrangenient for exhibiting light from their summit. With the
Jains this does not appear ever to have been the case. Their pillars are the
Hneal descendants of those of the Buddhists, which bore either emblems or
statues, generally the former— or figures of animals. With the Jains or
Vaishnavas they as generally bore statues. Be this as it may, they seem
nowhere to have been so frequent or so elaborately adorned as among the
Jains in the south. . . . They generally consist of a single block of granite,
square at base, changing to an octagon, and again to a figure of sixteen
sides, with a capital of very elegant shape. Some, however, are circular,
and indeed their variety is infinite. They range from thirty to forty feet and
even fifty feet in height, and whatever their dimensions, arc among the most
elegant specimens of art in southern India.'

The Hindu temples of Mysore, as distinguished from those of the
Jains, arc divided between two styles, which the great authority on

' Hist. Ind. Arch., 267-270. ' //'., 27.]. 3 /^.^ 276, 336.



architectural questions already (luoted, designates Dravidian and
Chalukyan. The former prevails in the south and east, the latter in
the north and west, but occasionally a building of one style will be
found within the region mostly occupied by the other. The Chalukyan
style, which was adopted all over the Dekhan from coast to coast — its
northern limit being a line from the source of the Godavari to the
mouth of the Mahanadi, and its southern, one from the sources of the
Kaveri passing west of Vijayanagar to the mouth of the Krishna-
attained its fullest development and highest degree of perfection in
Mysore. The Dravidian style did at one time, during the temporary
eclipse of the Chalukya power, penetrate further north as far as Ellora,
but it seems to have been a spasmodic effort and it took no permanent
root there. At that time were excavated the beautiful Kailasa and
other temples of Dravidian architecture at Ellora, now known to have
been executed under the Rashtrakiitas in the eighth century.'

Dravidian style. — The raths at Mahabalipur, dating from the sixth
century, may be considered as the prototypes of the style. From them
to the Kailisa at Ellora " the transition is easy, but the step consider-
able. At the first-named place we have manifest copies of structures
intended originally for other purposes and used at Mahabalipur in a
fragmentary and disjointed manner. At Ellora, on the contrary, the
whole is welded together, and we have a perfect Dravidian temple, as
complete in all its parts as at any future period. ... It seems certain
that the square raths are copies of Buddhist viharas, and are the
originals from which all the vimanas in southern India were copied,
and continued to be copied, nearly unchanged, to a very late period.
.... On the other hand, the oblong raths were halls or porticoes with
the Buddhists, and became the gopuras or gateways which are frequently
— indeed generally — more important parts of Dravidian temples than
the vimanas themselves. They too, like the vimanas, retain their
original features very little changed to the present day."

The temples consist almost invariably of four parts, arranged in
various manners, and differing in themselves only according to the age
in which they were executed, i. The vimdjia, or actual temple itself.
It is always square in plan and surmounted by a pyramidal roof of one
or more storeys. It contains the cell in which the image of the god or
his emblem is placed. 2. The tiianfapas, or porches which always cover
and precede the door leading to the cell. 3. T\\q gopuras, or pyramidal
towers over the gateway, often the loftiest and most imposing feature in
the temple. 4. Choultries or pillared halls used for various purposes.
Besides these, are tanks or wells and other buildings for the residence
or use of the priests.

' See above, p. 325.


The finest Dravidian temples, as might be expected, are to be met
with south and east beyond the limits of the Mysore territory. But the
temple of Ranganatha at Seringapatam, of Chamundi on the hill of that
name, the Halsur pagoda, the temples of Melukote, Talkad, Tiruma-
kiidlu, Ramnathpur and other places may be referred to as effective

Chdlukyan style. — The Chalukyan style is neither the least extensive
nor the least beautiful of the three Hindu styles of architecture. It
reached its greatest perfection in Mysore. The style is thus described : —
The temple itself (that is, the compartment occupied by the god) is
polygonal or star-shaped. The sides, however, are not obtained as in
the northern style by increments added flatly to a square, but are points
touching a circle, at one time apparently right angles, but afterwards
either more acute or flatter than a right angle. There are four principal
faces larger than the others, three occupied by niches, the fourth by the
entrance. The roof is in steps, and with a flat band on each face in
continuation of the larger face below. The porch is simple, consisting
of columns disposed equidistantly over its floor. [I would add that this
porch is generally surrounded by a wide stone seat or bench, with a
sloping back, which runs completely round the porch and forms as it
were a low wall on every side.] The details are often of great beauty,
especially the entrances, which are objects on which the architects
generally lavished their utmost skill. Nothing in Hindu art is more
pleasing than the pierced slabs which the Chdlukyas used for windows.
The pillars, too, are rich without being overdone : and as it is only in
pairs that they are of the same design, the effect of the whole is
singularly varied and yet at the same time pleasing and elegant.
The temples generally stand on a terrace a few feet high and from
ten to fifteen feet wide. This is one of the characteristic features of
Chalukyan design, and adds very considerably to the effect of their

The buildings of this style arc very numerous in the north and west
of Mysore. The temple of Kedaresvara at Ikilagami is probably one of
the oldest, and judging from the ruined and deserted temples at that
place it must have been one of the richest museums of sculpture and
architecture in Mysore. The temples at Kubattur also must at onetime
have been splendid buildings. Those at Arsikere, Harnhalli, Turvekere,
Naglapura, and numerous other places might be adduced as good
examples of the style.

But it was to the munificence of the Hoysala kings, and to the genius
of their gifted architects and sculptors, whom tradition declares to have
been Jakanachari and his son Dankanachari, that the Chdlukyan style

I, T.


owed its fullest development and highest degree of perfection. The
temples of Halebid, Belur and Somnathpur may be regarded as master-
pieces of the style. The Hoysales'vara, the oldest of the two
ornamental temples at Halebid, was probably commenced by Vinaya-
ditya (1047 to iioo). It is unfinished, but whether this was always
the case, or whether it was completed and afterwards lost its towers, it
is difficult to say.' The Kedares'vara,- the other temple, was erected
by Vira Ballala and his junior queen Abhinava Ketala Devi, apparently
at the close of his reign, about 12 19. The Belur temple was founded
by Vishnuvarddhana after his renunciation of the Jain faith in 11 17,
and perhaps completed during his reign, which ended in 1141. It
appears, however, to have suffered injury at the time of the INIuham-
madan invasion in 13 10, and was shut up till the reign of Harihara,
probably the first Vijayanagar king of that name, who reigned 1336 to
1350. He repaired the temple, built the gopura and restored the
endowments. If it was Harihara II who did this, it would be between
1379 and 1405. The Somnathpur temple was completed in 1270, and
was erected by Soma or Somanatha, the general of the Hoysala king
Narasimha III, who also founded the agrahara of Somnathpur.'* Of
these the Belur temple is the only one that has not been abandoned,
but owing to repairs and additions at various times the unity of design
is somewhat marred.

Halebid. — The Halebid temples were sacred to Siva, under the
respective forms of HoysalesVara and Kedares'vara. The second only
was completed, and was a perfect gem of art. Its sculptor seems to
have been Dev6ja.

Its plan was star-shaped, with sixteen points, and it had a porch well pro-
portioned in size. Its roof was conical, and from the basement to the
summit it was covered with sculptures of the very best class of Indian art,
and these so arranged as not materially to interfere with the outlines of the
building, while they imparted to it an amount of richness only to be found
among specimens of Hindu art. If it were possible, adds Mr. Fergusson,
to illustrate this little temple in anything like completeness, there is probably

' There is a picture in Mr. Fergiisson's book, p. 400, of a restored view of the
temple as he conceives it would have been if complete. The chief thing requiring
correction is the finial ornament of the towers, resembling a lantern. It should
really be a kalas'a or sacrificial vase, bound round with a cloth knotted towards the
four cardinal points, which, filled with holy water, is used at the consecration of temples.

- This has been erroneously called Kaites'vara and Kaitabhes'vara by some writers.

^ These dates and facts are taken from inscriptions, except for the big Halebid
temple, for the exact date of which no such authority has been obtained. Mr. Fergusson
has been misled (p. 392) about the dates, putting down Somnathpura temple (on what
authority is not stated) as erected in the time of Vinayaditya, who came to the throne
in 1047.


nothing in India which would convey a better idea of what its architects were
capable of accomplishing.'

It is, however, surpassed in size and magnificence by its neighbour, the
great temple at Halebid, which, had it been completed, is one of the
buildings on which the advocate of Hindu architecture would desire to take
his stand. Unfortunately it never was finished, the works having been
stopped after they had been in progress apparently for eighty-six years.*
[The names of some of the sculptors were Devdja, Kesimoja's son Masana,
Mayana, and Tdnagundiir Harisha.]

The general arrangements of the building are that it is a double temple.
If it were cut into halves, each part would be complete, with a pillared porch
of the same type as that at Belur, an antardla or intermediate porch, and a
sanctuary containing a lingam, the emblem of Siva. Besides this, each half
has in front of it a detached pillared porch as a shrine for the bull Xandi.
Such double temples are by no means uncommon in India, but the two
sanctuaries usually face each other and have the porch between them. Its
dimensions may roughly be stated as 200 feet square over all, including all
the detached pavilions. The temple itself is 160 feet north and south, by
122 feet east and west. Its height, as it now remains, to the cornice is about
twenty-five feet from the terrace on which it stands. It cannot, therefore, be
considered by any means as a large building, though large enough for
effect. This, however, can hardly be judged of as it now stands, for
there is no doubt but that it was intended to raise two pyramidal spires
over the sanctuaries, four smaller ones in front of these, and two more,
one over each of the two central pavilions. Thus completed, the
temple, if carried out with the richness of detail exhibited in the Keddr-
esvara, would have made up a whole which it would be difficult to
rival anywhere.

The material out of which this temple is erected is an indurated potstone
of volcanic origin, found in the neighbourhood. This stone is saidtobesoft
when first quarried, and easily cut in that state, though hardening on
exposure to the atmosphere. Even this, however, will not diminish our
admiration of the amount of labour bestowed on the temple ; for, from the
number of parts still unfinished, it is evident that, like most others of its
class, it was built in block and carved long after the stone had become hard.
As we now see it the stone is of a pleasing creamy colour and so close-
grained as to take a polish like marble. The pillars of the great Nandi
pavilion, which look as if they had been turned in a lathe, are so polished

1 This exquisite specimen of the most ornate Chiilukyan style of aichilccture is —
with shame be it written — a thing of the past. Mr. Fergusson's gloomy anticipations
(p. 397) have been completely fulfilled. The trees which had rooted themselves in
the vimana were suffered to do their work unchecked, and the building is now a
hideous heap of ruin. Some of the most perfect figures have been conveyed to Banga-
lore, and set up in the Museum, Init divorced from their artistic setting they have
lost their meaning. A proposal has been made, I believe, to convey the ruins to
Mysore, and erect the restored lemjile there as a memorial to the late Mahdrdja.

- There seems to be no authority for this statement.

L L 2


as to exhibit what the natives call a double reflection — in other words to
reflect light from each other. The enduring qualities of the stone seem to
be unrivalled, for, though neglected and exposed to all the vicissitudes of a
tropical climate for more than six centuries, the minutest details are as clear
and sharp as the day they were finished. Except from the splitting of the
stone arising from bad masonry, the building is as perfect as when its
erection was stopped by the Muhammadan conquest.

The building stands on a terrace, ranging from five feet to six feet in
height, and paved with lai-ge slabs. On this stands a frieze of elephants,
following all the sinuosities of the plan and extending to some 710 feet in
length, and containing not less than 2,000 elephants, most of them with
riders and trappings, sculptured as only an oriental can represent the wisest
of brutes. Above these is a frieze of shdrdiilas, or conventional tigers — the
emblems of the Hoysala BalMlas who built the temple. Then comes a
scroll of infinite beauty and variety of design ; over this a frieze of horsemen
and another scroll ; over which is a bas-relief of scenes from the Ramayana,
representing the conquest of Ceylon and all the varied incidents of that
epic. This, like the other, is about 700 feet long. (The frieze of the
Parthenon is less than 550 feet.) Then come celestial beasts and celestial
birds, and all along the east front a frieze of groups from human life, and
then a cornice, with a rail, divided into panels, each containing two figures.
Over this are windows of pierced slabs, like those of Belur, though not so
rich or varied. In the centre, in place of the windows, is first a scroll, and
then a frieze of gods and heavenly apsaras— dancing girls and other objects
of Hindu mythology. This frieze, which is about five feet six inches in
height, is continued all round the western front of the building, and extends
to some 400 feet in length. Siva, with his consort Parvati seated on his
knee, is repeated at least fourteen times ; Vishnu in his nine avatars even
oftener. Brahma occurs three or four times, and every great god of the
Hindu pantheon finds his place. Some of these are carved with a minute
elaboration of detail which can only be reproduced by photography, and may
probably be considered as one of the most marvellous exhibitions of human
labour to be found even in the patient East.

It must not, however, be considered that it is only for patient industry
that this building is remarkable. The mode in which the eastern face is
broken up by the larger masses, so as to give height and play of light and
shade, is a better way of accomplishing what the Gothic architects attempted
by their transepts and projections. This, however, is surpassed by the
western front, where the variety of outline, and the arrangement and sub-
ordination of the various facets in which it is disposed, must be considered
as a masterpiece of design in its class. If the frieze of gods were spread
along a plain surface it would lose more than half its efl'ect, while the
vertical angles, without interfering with the continuity of the frieze, give
height and strength to the whole composition. The disposition of the
horizontal lines of the lower friezes is equally effective. Here again the
artistic combination of horizontal with vertical lines, and the play of outline
and of light and shade, far surpass anything in Gothic art. The effects are


just what mediaeval architects were often aiming at, but which they never
attained so perfectly as was done at Halebid.

Before leaving Halebid, it may be well again to call attention to the
order of superposition of the different animal friezes. As in the rock-cut
monastery described by the Chinese pilgrims, so here, the lowest were the
elephants ; then the lions ; above these came the horses ; then the oxen,
and the fifth storey was in the shape of a pigeon. The oxen here are re-
placed by a conventional animal, and the pigeon also by a bird of a species
that would puzzle a naturalist. The succession, however, is the same, and
the same five genera of living things form the ornaments of the moonstones
of the various monuments in Ceylon. Sometimes in modern Hindu temples
only two or three animal friezes are found, but the succession is always the
same, the elephants being the lowest, the next above them are the lions,
and then the horses, etc. When we know the cause of it, it seems as if this
curious selection and ^succession might lead to some very suggestive
conclusions. At present we can only call attention to it in hopes that
further investigation may afford the means of solving the mystery.

If it were possible to illustrate the Halebid temple to such an extent as
to render its peculiarities familiar, there would be few things more interest-
ing or more instructive than to institute a comparison between it and the
Parthenon at Athens. Not that the two buildings are at all like one
another ; on the contrary, they form the two opposite poles — the alpha and
omega of architectural design ; but they are the best examples of their class,
and between these two extremes lies the whole range of the art. The
Parthenon is the best example we know of pure refined intellectual power
applied to the production of an architectural design. Every part and every
effect is calculated with mathematical exactness, and executed with a
mechanical precision that never was equalled. All the curves are hyper-
bolas, parabolas, or other developments of the highest mathematical forms
— every optical defect is foreseen and provided for, and every part has a
relation to every other part in so recondite a proportion that we feel inclined
to call it fanciful, because we can hardly rise to its appreciation. The
sculpture is exquisitely designed to aid the perfection of the masonry —
severe and godlike, but with no condescension to the lower feelings of

The Halebid temple is the opposite of all this. It is regular, but with
a studied variety of outline in plan, and even greater variety in detail. All
the pillars of the Parthenon are identical, while no two facets of the Indian
temple are the same ; every convolution of every scroll is different. No two
canopies in the whole building are alike, and every part exhibits a joyous
exuberance of fancy scorning every mechanical restraint. All that is wild
in human faith or warm in human feeling is found portrayed on these
walls ; but of pure intellect there is little — less than there is of human feel-
ing in the Parthenon.

The great value of the study of these Indian examples is that it widens so
immensely our basis for architectural criticism. It is only by becoming
familiar with forms so utterly dissimilar from those we have hitherto been


conversant with, that we perceive how narrow is the purview that is content
with one form or one passing fashion. By rising to this wider range we
shall perceive that architecture is as many-sided as human nature itself, and
learn how few feelings and how few aspirations of the human heart and
brain there are that cannot be expressed by its means. On the other hand,
it is only by taking this wide survey that we appreciate how worthless any
product of architectural art becomes which does not honestly represent the
thoughts and feelings of those who built it, or the height of their loftiest

The Belur and Somnathpur temples were dedicated to Vishnu, under his
denomination of Kes'ava.

Belur.— This consists of a principal temple, surrounded by four or five
others and numerous subordinate buildings, enclosed in a court by a high
wall, measuring 360 feet by 440 feet, and having two very fine gateways or
gopuras in its eastern front. The great temple consists of a very solid
vimdna, with an antarala, or porch ; and in front of this a porch of the usual
star-like form, measuring ninety feet across. The whole length of the
temple, from the east door to the back of the cell, is 115 feet, and the whole
stands on a terrace about three feet high, and from ten feet to fifteen
feet wide. The arrangements of the pillars have much of that pleasing
subordination and variety of spacing which is found in those of the Jains,
but we miss here the octagonal dome, which gives such poetry and meaning
to the arrangements they adopted. Instead of that, we have only an
exaggerated compartment in the centre, which fits nothing, and though it
does give dignity to the centre, it does it so clumsily as to be almost offensive
in an architectural sense.'

It is not, however, either to its dimensions, or the disposition of its plan,
that this temple owes its pre-eminence among others of its class, but to the
marvellous elaboration and beauty of its details. The effect of these, it is
true, has been, in modern times, considerably marred by the repeated coats

Online LibraryB. Lewis (Benjamin Lewis) RiceMysore: a gazetteer compiled for government (Volume 1) → online text (page 61 of 98)